In this bulletin, Dilip Ramaswamy from Holding Redlich lawyers has collated (and dispelled) four of the most common myths surrounding Chain of Responsibility (CoR). For some readers new to this tricky subject, it’s a bit like a version of ‘all the things you wanted to know about CoR but were too afraid to ask’.
Myth 1: CoR provisions only apply to those directly involved in the transportation of goods.
Fact: This is perhaps the biggest misconception in the transport industry. The truth is that CoR provisions impose requirements on – and hold accountable – any party in the supply chain with the power to exercise influence and/or control over any aspect of the transport of goods by road.
- loading managers;
- consignors and consignees; and
- directors and managers (for corporations).
The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) provides that multiple parties may be responsible for offences committed by the drivers and operators of heavy vehicles, and it is often those indirectly associated with the transportation of goods that may be most responsible for a vehicle’s breach of road requirements.
It is vital that all parties to the supply chain recognise their obligations under the CoR. For example, in relation to driver fatigue:
- the consignor or consignee may have contributed to the breach by the delivery times they imposed;
- a scheduler may have reduced the driver’s rest breaks, resulting in driver fatigue; and
- the driver may have had inadequate rest the night before.
Myth 2: Breaches of CoR will result in only administrative penalties to the relevant parties in the supply chain.
Fact: Fines are an important part of penalty enforcement under the HVNL. However, they are not the only mechanism available to act as a deterrent. Essentially, the HVNL contains three different types of penalties:
1. Infringement notices: Infringement notices can be issued in place of court prosecution. Infringement notices give the option of paying the fine stated or challenging the notice in court. Typically, infringement notices are set at 10% of the maximum court-imposed penalty.
2. Court-imposed penalties: For more serious offences, the HVNL imposes court penalties, including:
- court fines;
- supervisory intervention orders;
- licensing and registration sanctions;
- prohibition orders; and
- commercial benefits penalties.
3. Demerit points: Demerit points will be deducted from the heavy vehicle driver’s licence and are managed through each jurisdiction’s road traffic regulations. However, these types of sanctions are relatively rare. Out of the 330 offences under the HVNL, only eight impose demerit points.
Myth 3: All drivers need to carry hard copies of relevant documents on board the vehicle to fulfil their CoR requirements.
Fact: Most documents can be presented to an authorised officer in either electronic or hard-copy form. However, electronic copies cannot be presented for documents such as work diaries and interception books, or where there is a specific requirement that a hard copy be presented to the authorised officer.
When presenting a document electronically, be mindful that any device used must have a visual display that is able to show all elements of the document. This means that a tablet or smartphone would be acceptable, but a CD or USB containing the documents would not allow the driver to discharge their duties.
Myth 4: All drivers of heavy vehicles must abide by the standard hours for work and rest when operating under the HVNL.
Fact: To an extent, this is correct. Standard hours are the work and rest hours allowed in the HVNL for all drivers who are not operating under the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme (NHVAS).
This may include an accreditation or an exemption.
However, heavy vehicle operators are afforded greater flexibility if they possess Basic Fatigue Management (BFM) or Advanced Fatigue Management (AFM) accreditation. BFM operators are able to work up to 14 hours in a 24-hour period. They also have a greater say in when drivers can work and rest, as long as the risks of driver fatigue are managed properly. AFM operators are afforded more flexibility than standard hours or BFM in return for the operator demonstrating greater accountability for managing their drivers’ fatigue risks.
Dilip Ramaswamy is a transport law expert at Holding Redlich and is a regulator contributor to CoR Adviser – a monthly newsletter full of the latest information on CoR obligations for any member of the supply chain where heavy vehicles are used to transport goods – not just transport owners and operators.
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